Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Analyzing the Analysis of the Random House Consolidation

A recent article on the Random House consolidation of imprints in the New York Observer is of great interest to publishing folk, booksellers, agents, and all book groupies. Consolidating Random House's five adult publishing groups into three is the first major change Markus Dohle has made since taking over the company.

The story does a great job of addressing the intricacies of who left the company and why. I love the quote “Together, Mr. Olson, Mr. Rubin, and the Applebaum Brothers ran Random House in a fashion that was described and eventually mythologized in widely read pieces of journalism like Lynn Herschberg's "Nothing Random" in The New York Times Magazine and Joe Hagan's "Those Royal Applebaums" in this paper (the Observer)."

It reminded me so much of a conversation I had with a good friend who shall remain nameless.

Nameless Friend (NF): My company is so bloated. We need to layoff a lot of people.

Me: Who would you layoff?

NF: Everyone I don’t know.

Back to the Observer article, what I think it missed in the analysis is the unique atmosphere at Random House where publishing groups can bid against each other for properties. Consolidate the groups and there are less parties at the auction, and less staff needed to nurture the programs. To explain, Random House and Knopf can bid for the same novel, but Knopf and Pantheon would not. Now with Doubleday and Bantam Dell folded into other groups, there is less of this. Good for them, but not as good for authors, agents, and the publishing folk made extraneous.

Broadway Books is to be folded into Crown’s Clarkson Potter, for example, as they have the two most developed cookbook programs. Currently Potter's is the stronger program, focusing on personalities more than chefs. This season it's all about Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics for us. No other cookbook comes close.

The same story holds for the business programs, though in this case, neither program is particularly strong, with with Crown's Steve Ross now helming the Collins program at HarperCollins. Doubleday is separated from Broadway but reunited with its paperback program Anchor. As it stands now, Rubin already had an agreement with Mehta to send his literary books to Anchor for reprint.

Now as for the comment that Mr. Mehta does not really do self-help, has anyone heard of French Women Don’t Get Fat?

Here’s the article.

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